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BLACK COUNTRY: Parks remove emissions for 100,000 people

BLACK COUNTRY: Parks remove emissions for 100,000 people

Copyright Sandwell council

The Black Country’s parks and green spaces remove the equivalent amount of carbon from the air as the emissions from more than 100,000 people flying from Glasgow to London every year.

However, these outdoor areas could be under threat from development in the future without better protection, according to research by charity Fields in Trust (FIT).

The Black Country is home to around 2,217 hectares of public parks and green spaces, the group’s analysis shows – an area roughly a third of the size of the local authority of Wolverhampton.

FIT estimates this land captures about 4,434 tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere every year – equivalent to greenhouse gases produced by 105,771 people flying from Glasgow to London.

The analysis includes public parks and gardens, playgrounds and sports areas, but excludes national parks, common land, cemeteries and golf courses.

To calculate the amount of carbon captured, FIT assumed each square metre of parkland would absorb 0.2kg of carbon per year on average –  based on research by the UK Green Building Council.

FIT works with communities to preserve green spaces by agreeing “deeds of dedication” with landowners – legally binding documents that set out what can be done with the land.

Around 281 hectares (13%) of parkland across the Black Country are protected by such an agreement, which the charity says is one of the strongest safeguards against losing green spaces to development.

Across Britain as a whole, just 6% of the estimated 201,000 hectares of green space are protected in this way.

This leaves an area equivalent to more than twice the size of New York City “endangered”, says FIT.

Helen Griffiths, chief executive of the charity, said: “Local response to climate action is crucial, and parks can play an important role in creating a greener and fairer economy.

“They can help tackle health and opportunity inequalities among communities and we must, without question, commit to preserving the green lungs of our towns and cities.

“This all sits within the powers of our local leaders, and this is an opportunity now to change the way we think about the contribution local green spaces make to our health, our wellbeing, our environment, and ultimately our futures.

“These parks and green spaces are under threat today, from financial and development pressures and it is up to all of us to stem this cycle of disappearance and decline.

“Our children and grandchildren deserve to have the same green space opportunities that we did, so we need to act today before it’s too late.”

A report published by the Climate Change Committee (CCC) in 2019 said the amount of green space as a proportion of urban areas across England dropped from 63 per cent to 55 per cent between 2001 and 2018.

Their  most recent report urged the government to create an “urban green space target” by next year to reverse the decline and ensure towns and cities are more climate resilient.

Gerald Vernon-Jackson, chair of the Local Government Association’s culture tourism and sport board, said parkland was not only vital to tackling the climate crisis but also to supporting people’s physical and mental health.

He said: “With COP26 and climate change at the forefront of the agenda, it’s imperative that government capitalise on the resource of councils as one of the largest providers of public parks, green spaces, and protectors of the natural environment – working closely with them to ensure the £9 million in funding announced in the spending review has the maximum impact on parks provision across the country.”

But he added that longer-term funding was needed to help councils maintain public green space.

A Department for Levelling up, Housing and Communities spokesperson said: “We recognise that parks and green spaces deliver wider benefits for nature, our health, and support our climate change commitments, which is exactly why we have our National Planning Policy Framework to make sure existing open space and sports and recreational land must not be built on except in very special circumstances.”

Words: Rhi Storer, Local Democracy Reporter


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